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Reach Out to Young Employees about Leadership Skills

Woman Working Alone in Office at Night

Research shows that young employees feel solely responsible for developing their leadership skills. This is how you can make them feel empowered and less alone.

Today’s post is by Thuy Sindell, a principal at Skyline Group International.

When I was younger and less experienced, I made the same mistake as many professionals early on in their careers: I never asked for help. I was surrounded by employees who had years of insights from which I could learn, but I was worried asking questions would be a sign of weakness.

I felt if I was going to progress in my career, it was up to me. I alone would have to learn what I needed to do to succeed. Over time, I did gain skills and experience, but if I’d asked more questions, it would have shortened the learning curve significantly.

What’s unfortunate is that this feeling of responsibility isn’t uncommon in young people. Recent research from the University of Gothenburg found that employees between 24 and 30 tend to believe they’re the only one who can impact their career. They think they have to have all the answers and solve problems alone in order to become a leader.

This creates a rift between young employees and leaders who could be useful resources for them. And as the one who knows better, it’s up to you to create a work environment that shows young employees you have their best interests at heart.

Here are three ways to show young employees you can help them and develop their leadership skills:

1. Take an interest in their professional goals.

The first step in reaching out to younger employees is to find out their short- and long-term career goals. By having that conversation, they can begin to see you want to help them along that path.

What can be difficult, however, is finding the time to sit down with to talk. The discussion needs to be scheduled so the employee understands this something you truly care about and not just chit-chat. A great time to have the conversation is during a performance review. This will allow you to tie what they’re currently doing with their future goals.

It’s also a good idea to have young employees fill out a short survey before you meet so you have a general idea of their career plan. You can then prepare questions and talking points so they get better information out of the discussion.

2. Personalize development programs.

Generic leadership development programs only reinforce young employees’ beliefs that their development is up to them. They get excited to learn new job and leadership skills, only to find out the material doesn’t apply to their goals.

Catering development to each individual is a better approach. It shows young employees they aren’t alone, while teaching them skills useful to both of you.

In order to know what skills to focus on with each person, have them undergo a thorough 360 assessment. Get input from managers, peers, and the employee themselves about their strengths and aptitude levels. From there, you and the young person can decide what leadership skills to work on so they can reach their goals.

3. Reframe what it looks like to ask for help.

It took me a long time to realize there’s a difference between asking for help and asking for insights. Needing help implies the young person is incapable of something. This is what kept me – and currently keeps them – from asking questions.

Wanting insights, on the other hand, shows the employee knows what they’re doing but would like to do it even better. This reframes the situation in a positive way. It becomes about progressing and developing, not admitting failure.

Instead of telling young employees they can come to you with questions, tell them you’re willing to provide insights. This will encourage them to approach you and learn without making them feel vulnerable.

What are some other ways to help young employees develop their leadership skills? Share in the comments below!

Thuy Sindell– Thuy Sindell is a principal in Skyline Group International, Inc., Skyline Group is the leading provider of scalable leadership solutions with a foundation built upon decades of executive coaching with some of the most recognized companies in the world. Skyline is revolutionizing the leadership development industry with the C4X coaching platform. Learn more at http://www.skylineg.com/ and http://www.C4X.com.

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